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Scientists triple known types of viruses in oceans

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Staff Writer | September 22, 2016
The world's oceans teem with scientific mystery, unknowns that could prove to be tools that will one day protect the planet from global warming.
Oceans
Nature   Far-reaching implications
Researchers report they've tripled the known types of viruses living in waters around the globe, and now have a better idea what role they play in nature. The study, led by scientists at The Ohio State University, appears in the journal Nature.

Their work will likely have far-reaching implications, including ultimately helping to preserve the environment through reducing excess carbon humans put into the atmosphere, they say.

The oceans currently soak up half of that carbon, but that comes at the cost of acidifying the oceans, which puts some ocean-dwellers, including shellfish, at risk. Understanding how microbes and viruses interact is critical to any possible management efforts, the researchers say.

Their work was possible because of the unprecedented three-year Tara Oceans Expedition, in which a team of more than 200 experts took to the sea to better understand its unseen inhabitants, and the Spanish-led 2010 Malaspina expedition, which evaluated the impact of global change on the ocean and studied its biodiversity.

Researchers at Ohio State processed viral samples collected by scientists aboard the two ships.

Lead author Simon Roux analyzed genetic information from those samples to catalog 15,222 genetically distinct viruses and group them into 867 clusters that share similar properties. Roux is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Matthew Sullivan, the study's senior author and associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State.

"Ten years ago I would never have dreamed that we could establish such an extensive catalog of ocean organisms around the world," Sullivan said.


 

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